Over the last few years, we’ve been reading horror stories in the news of brain damage related suicides among competitive sports players, the most recent of which an NFL linebacker Junior Seau. Seau’s death has brought attention to how little we actually know about concussions–the most common and “least severe” brain injury, which is often associated with contact sports like football and hockey.
Doctors agree that diagnosing a concussion is not as clear-cut as many people seem to believe. There are the tell-tale symptoms that we’ve come to associate with the condition: dizziness, headaches, loss of consciousness, balance problems, and memory lapses. However, there are more than thirty different concussions on record, and each comes with its own diagnostic symptoms and is open to interpretation by individual doctors. Additionally, many of these symptoms rely on the patient’s claimed experience, which makes the diagnostic process far from objective.
The Brain Trauma Foundation, in partnership with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are working on a standard definition for concussion. Additionally, the former has crafted an eye tracking device that can measure predictive timing, one of the functions of brain activity doctors have observed is affected by concussions.
This device allows doctors to see how well a person is able to “sync up” with a moving target. Currently, the device is being tested by the U.S. military to measure cognitive performance.
By being able to accurately diagnose concussion early on, doctors and family members of those affected can better watch for other dangerous symptoms of postconcussion syndrome.